Madagascar grappling with reduced forests

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Only 9 million hectares of Madagascar's total surface area of 590,000 square km are covered by forests, which might be gone completely in decades without boosted protection, the local L'Express daily reported on Monday.

Citing the Association of Madagascan Forestry, the report also said about 300,000 hectares have been reforested, while 524,700 hectares of forests have disappeared in the past 11 years.

The chief of the association, Ndranto Razakamarina, was quoted as saying the forests have disappeared because of illegal cutting down of precious trees and the need to create agricultural land by farmers.

"The illegal traffickers have penetrated even into protected zones to cut down trees and this destruction has affected the fauna as well," Razakamarina said.

In June alone, 732 logs of rosewood trees were seized in Sava in the southeast of the capital Antananarivo and 180 logs were seized at Taolagnaro in the southwestern part of the Indian Ocean island country. Six containers from Madagascar were also seized in Mauritius.

Last year, the country's Environment and Forestry Ministry banned the cutting down of precious trees like rosewood and recently put in place a control service by forest guards, soldiers and police officers to secure the precious trees. However, the felling of the trees is still going on.

If concrete measures are not taken to stop persistent deforestation, then Madagascar's forest cover could totally disappear in the next 50 years, forest experts have warned.

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